Srngarapadyavali present a Sanskrit verse translation of two hundred selected Tamil poems on the subject of love; it also present English verse translation of the same verse and a brief account of the many conventions governing Tamil love poetry. Some of them relate the sentiment to the physical background; for example, secret love develops in the hill slopes while separation is presented in the background of grassy meadows. Throughout the work, love is presented at the highest level and sexy, obscene observations are totally absent. Idealized love is portrayed against exquisitely drawn natural background, which reinforced the sentiment. A book of transcendental aesthetic appeal that is bound to please as well as elevate the mood of the reader.
A.V. Subramanian (b 27 November 1924) joined Indian Railways in 1948 as a Probationary Officer. Severed in many parts of India and retired as Additional General Manager, Southern Railway in 1982. Delivered lectures on literature, religion and philosophy in many places in India. Went on lecture tours to USA, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Italy, France and UK. Has written over 80 books on a variety of subjects. Out of them are on aesthetics and literary criticism. Has developed an original theory of aesthetics based on Neurology. Has presented many innovative concept in aesthetics in his books. Secured a number of prizes and citations; been honoured by the Tamil Nadu State Government and by reputed literary organizations devoted to the development of Sanskrit and Tamil.
Owing to the operation of factors and forces not fully understood, a society comes up with a starting efflorescence of art and literature for a period of time, to fade away after the stimulus has worked itself out, to its wonted level of mediocrity. Clearly economic and political factors have a certain role to play in this but there could be an unidentifiable, intangible chemistry involved of which historians of civilization have not yet taken the measure. Italy and France during the Renaissance period and Elizabethan England enjoyed such efflorescence. Tamilnadu experienced a glorious flowering of literature for four to five centuries just before and after the advent of Christ, the like of which has not been met with elsewhere in India and, indeed, in Tamilnadu itself in the centuries succeeding . In the other linguistic societies of India and in Tamil country itself there have been some great works produced over a comparatively short span of time but these clearly do not mark a golden age. It is not merely the size or even the quality of the literature produced during a period of time that gives it the label of a golden age. There must be a discernible golden thread of homogeneity running through the works produced, homogeneity without, of course, an inartistic repetitive monotony, that would constitute a hall-mark of golden age.
The golden era of letters in Tamil society called the Sangam Age gave birth to poetical works which possess this subtle quality of homogeneity in abundant measure. Indeed, despite differences in style and presentation arising from idiosyncratic personality differences, there is in them son much of similarity of outlook, emotional quality and diction that we often fail to notice or remember who authored a particular poem. The stamp of the Age seems to obiliterate the personal stamp of the poet in these works; the period counts far more than the personality.
The reason for this is quite evident; the Sangam poets had a clearly drawn up set of traditions which they followed to the extent the demands of creativity and the need for freshness would allow them. Since the traditions themselves were extremely sensible, being based on a deep understanding of the requirements of creative literature, the Sangam poets could allow themselves to be guided substantially by them without hamstringing their creativity. These literary traditions are not to be likened to the caveats of a dictator; they function more like the advice of a mother to her child. Since the literary caliber of these poets was quite high, they had little difficulty in regulating their products in accord with these traditions without significant loss of freshness or originality.
These literary traditions by the light of which Sangam poets steered their course are quite a unique institution that deserves deep study. It is true every literary-minded society has some traditions and critics of note like T. S. Eliot have made a systematic study of them. The uniqueness of the Tamil Sangam traditions consists in the fact that they constitute the framework in which individual poets execute their miniature painting. The traditions in other societies influence the periphery, they do not constitute the framework within which poets express themselves. While the literary conventions of the Sangam Age govern all classes of poetry those regulating love poetry are of an all-encompassing nature. It is the bare truth that a good grounding in these conventions is absolutely essential for the proper comprehension and enjoyment of Sangam love poetry.
Hence it is proposed to discuss the more important of these literary conventions relating to love poetry in this introduction to Kuruntokai-in-translation. At the very heart of these is the basic concept that for every stage and mood of love, there is one specially suitable landscape that, when presented as the background helps to evoke and reinforce the sentiment. Nature plays an important role in creative poetry everywhere in the world but it has a central, pivotal role to play in Sangam love poetry. Thus the wooded mountain slopes are the prescribed backdrop for premarital love, the meadows for short-term separation and the desert for long term separation of a harsher, more forbidding kind. The seashore is generally chosen as a background for all these stages though it has a particular value in reinforcing the pangs of separation. The riverine plains are used for an altogether different purpose. When the husband strays from the narrow path of virtue, marriage bonds are strained, though never broken in Sangam literature. The travails of the wife and the impudence of the prostitute are portrayed against the background of fertile, well-watered plains.
While this is a simplified, over-all view of the pattern, the elements of a poem have been analysed by the Sangam rhetoricians into three main groups. The first comprises the type of land in which the love-episode happens and the ideal time for it, the time being again divided into the season of the year and the part of the day. The second main grouping includes all the characteristics of the land like the flora and the fauna, the nature of human habitations in the area, the pursuits of the people and their pastimes, even the special gods they worship; the grammarians count as many as fourteen characteristics as falling under this grouping . The third, which of course is the heart of the poem, is its ruling sentiment or mood. And clearly the first two groups are intended to subserve the third and are justified and sustained only in so far as they enhance its impact.
For the wooded slopes, the season of the year nominated is the rainy winter and the time is mid-night. The characteristic fauna of the land usually met with in poems treating of this division of land are the bear, the tiger, the elephant and the monkey; among the flora we get recurrent mention of the kurinji, the vengai and the sandal tree, the pepper creeper and the bamboo copse. The people of the land follow hunting as an important pursuit but also grow mountain millet on the slopes and get inebriated on mead cured in sections of bamboo. The god presiding over the hills is Muruga whose brave exploits are balladized by the hunters' wives. The prevailing emotion is the fierce love of young people on which an edge has been set by the need for secrecy. For premarital love is as pure and blemishless as it is tempestuous, all-consuming. The young people know that it is not licentious profligacy, that they will love nobody else in this or their succeeding lives till the end of time. But the parents of the girl are apt to take a dim view of the whole affair and the lovers have therefore to meet in a most clandestine manner and at other times try to conceal the physical and mental marks of their deep involvement. Tempestuous love with overtones of fear is the emotional core of this group of lyrics.
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